Mobile 'lok adalats' to aid poor in Karnataka

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Bangalore, Nov 19: Karnataka Government has come out with a solution for the poor who cannot pay the heavy dues for the long and time-consuming court battles through mobile 'lok adalat' (people's court). A specially designed bus will serve as a court room to conduct the lok adalat. Lok adalat is a mechanism for speedy settlement of disputes through conciliation, compromise or arbitration. It is not a substitute to the courts but supplements their function. For the financially weak, it is a relief as they need not pay any court or lawyer's fees for the lok adalats to take up their case.

Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan will launch the 'justice on wheels' service on Saturday. "Delivering social justice to one and all is our duty, and poor people from rural areas have either no access to legal aid or are not aware about its existence. Thus, the mobile justice van will be a tool for the poor people of Karnataka to get access to justice," Karnataka High Court judge and Executive Chairman of the Karnataka State Legal Services Authority (KSLSA) V Gopala Gowda said.

Christened Mobile Lok Adalat and Legal Literacy Chariot, the bus has been designed like a mini court room, Gowda said. The mobile lok adalat will have a judicial official and a conciliator. The 'court room' has enough space to seat the litigants and their advocates, Gowda said. "Along with solving small and petty cases, the mobile court will help in spreading legal awareness among the masses," he said.

"The launch of the service coincides with the opening of a two-day regional conference of southern states on "Initiative on Supporting the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme Through State Legal Services Authorities" by Balakrishnan.

Karnataka will be the second state in the country, after Haryana, to come up with the idea of spreading legal awareness and providing legal aid to the poor villagers through mobile courts.

Each of Karnataka's 29 district legal services authorities will be entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring that the mobile court visits all villages under its jurisdiction.

"We're hoping the initiative will help the poor and needy to get justice at their doorsteps. Poor people generally cannot afford to come to taluk (sub-division) and district courts. Our endeavour will ensure settlement of disputes of the rural people at their own home," said K.L. Manjunath, another judge of the Karnataka High Court and chairman of its legal services committee.

As a part of its endeavour to ensure speedy justice, KSLSA has also set up a 24-hour legal aid clinic at the Bangalore Mediation Centre.

"We've been trying all possible measures to provide legal aid and services to one and all at quickest possible time. We have succeeded in resolving and reaching settlement in several cases till date," said Gowda.

"The mobile lok adalat will start functioning from Bidar (a district in north Karnataka) very soon," he added.

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